BLOG: Leadership: Arrogance and How the Mighty Fall

Robert Labayen

Posted at Jul 16 2016 04:24 PM

In a video interview, we asked our Chairman about what he thought our company values should be. He answered “our values are what we do even when no one is looking.“

I agree with him that our values should be authentic and that the values of a company are just an extension of our values as private persons. I also think that a leader’s values should be admirable enough for all employees to know about and adopt.

It is my personal belief that a leader’s character has a big influence on a company’s character and culture. What a leader approves of or disapproves of may become the unwritten but strong rule.

In my previous article, I wrote about how arrogance by the leader can become an example that others may follow. Here’s an excerpt from the blog post I wrote on March 26, 2016:

An article by Rita Pyrillis in the Talent Management website quoted Sally Helgensen, author and leadership development consultant. Helgensen said that “people let that side of their nature come forward when the culture allows it. It’s not that the company hires a bunch of jerks; it’s that there’s something there that allows that behavior to emerge. “Pyrillis added that “it comes from the top.” I can agree that the behavior of top management, or even the division head, is the most eloquent way of “laying down the rules.”

In the same article, Pyrillis cited the research by organizational psychologist Stanley Silverman. He concluded “the higher the arrogance, the lower the cognitive ability.“ He also said that arrogant people usually have lower self-esteem that’s why they cover it up and “prove” their competence by disparaging other people.

Instead of thinking of themselves as beyond reproach, good leaders openly declare their accountability. They must allow themselves to be corrected by other people instead of threatening to dissolve the labor union, the management committee or the board of directors.

In the website Harvard Business Review, John Baldoni wrote that “confidence is an attribute that every leader needs to embrace and to foster in others. But when confidence goes too far, it can become hubris.”

Jim Collins is one of our generation’s most respected authors on the topic of business management. He wrote "Good to Great" and also "Built to Last" (with Jim Porras).

John Baldoni quoted Jim Collins’ new book "How the Mighty Fall" in which he said that hubris “sets in when people become arrogant, regarding success virtually as an entitlement, and they lose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place.“ Collins thinks that stage 1 of organizational failure is “hubris born of success.“

Baldoni is author of nine books and is chair of the leadership development practice at N2Growth. He came up with this list of warning signs of hubris:

You make decisions independently

You can’t remember the last time you spoke to a customer

You always have lunch with the same people

You team always agrees with you

When something goes wrong, the first thing you ask is “Who’s responsible?”

For me, the best way to keep myself in check is this passage Matthew 23:12:

"For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

If you have concerns about your job or if you wish to suggest a topic, you may email me at [email protected]

Read more about ExecuTips on

About the Author:

Robert Labayen spent 22 years in advertising prior to joining ABS-CBN in 2004. He was VP-Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi and Executive Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson, two of the country's leading ad agencies. He is currently the Head of Creative Communications Management at ABS-CBN. His job involves inspiring people to be their best. He is a writer, painter and songwriter.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.